ISFOP Staff Biographical Information

Dr. Kamalendu B. Paul serves as a Professor of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and a State Extension Specialist with the Lincoln University of Missouri. He received his undergraduate education in India, M.S. in Plant & Soil Science from Tuskegee University in Alabama, and Ph. D. in Biology (Plant Physiology) from the University of Ottawa, Canada. He was involved in classroom teaching and field research for approximately 15 years, before he got involved in international development work in the mid-1980s. During his 12 plus years stint in Africa, he has served in various capacities in 14 countries. He first worked in Rwanda as a farming systems agronomist for over three years. His subsequent assignments were as follows: Regional Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisor with USAID’s REDSO/ESA in Nairobi; Chief-of-Party for the Natural Resources Management Project in the Republic of Guinea; and Project Manager for the Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS) Project located in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Upon return to Lincoln University in 1998, he taught Introduction to Natural Resources, and Soil and Water Conservation & Management courses for two years. He presently serves as the Leader of the Innovative Small Farmers Outreach Program (ISFOP), and as the Co-Coordinator for the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) program for the state of Missouri.  He mentors several junior faculty, and reviews grant proposals for USDA and other governmental agencies.

Dr. Sanjun Gu is an Assistant Professor and State Horticulture Specialist from Cooperative Research and Extension, with a split appointment of 75% extension and 25% research. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Vegetable Crops from Shandong Agricultural University,  MS Degree in Vegetable Breeding and Tissue Culture from China Agricultural University, and Ph.D. in Viticulture and Forestry from University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL, 2003). Dr. Gu joined Lincoln University in 2008 with state-wide responsibility for commercial vegetable and small fruit production. Prior to that, he did one year post-doc on gene transformation in soybeans at UNL and then had been the Viticulture Program leader at Kentucky State University. His research interests include vegetable grafting and vegetable production in high-tunnels and other solar plastic greenhouses, as well as new variety trials.


Katie Nixon grew up in the city of Kansas City and lived there until she left for the state of Washington to attend college. She graduated from Western Washington University in 2001 with a Degree in Permaculture Design and Environmental Education. She went on to study Sustainable Agriculture in New Zealand and received a Sustainable Land Use Management degree from Earthcare Education Aotearoa in 2002. From 2002-2009 she worked in the sustainable agriculture field in many countries around the world including the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa. She has recently settled back to her hometown of Kansas City and re-immersed herself into the agricultural network of Missouri. Since 2009, she has been working as a Small Farm Specialist for the Innovative Small Farmers Outreach Program run through Lincoln University Cooperative Extension. Working for the ISFOP as a Small Farm Specialist for the West Central Region has been a great way to tie all of her experiences with community development and food production together. She constantly explores networking opportunities with other organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, in the greater Kansas City area and the surrounding counties for bringing all possible assistance to the farmers and home gardeners living there. She delivers information and education to the under-served small farmers and ranchers on a one-on-one basis in order for them to improve production and farm income. She receives valuable assistance from three other ISFOP Farm Outreach Workers (FOWs) in the region. Together, they hope to improve the quality of lives of all collaborating farm families, as well as revitalize the communities.


Vonna Kesel was born and raised in the beautiful town of Westphalia, MO.  "I now reside in another beautiful little town called Saint Elizabeth with my husband Mark. We have three wonderful children, James 23, Megan 19 and Sarah 17.  I left Lincoln University after 15 years of employment to pursue another occupation which I left after 8 years to return to my “home” which is Lincoln University, and I am very pleased that I have done so."

Susan Jaster began a career in dairy farming in the early eighties in Arizona on a large commercial dairy. She continued dairy farming in Missouri on the 150 cow dairy that she co-owned with her husband Art and three children.  During her farm career she was also a radio broadcaster and farm news reporter for a small radio station in Southwest Missouri.  Susan and her family participated in the 4-H program for many years, and she will be celebrating 20 years of service with 4-H in 2012.  She has always had a garden and cared for many species of animals throughout her life.  Susan serves farmers in Ray and Lafayette Counties as a Farm Outreach Worker.

Jeff Yearington was born and raised on a family dairy farm in Corning, Iowa where his father raised hogs, cattle, and crops. His father and mother had strong beliefs for sustainable agriculture and provided farm fresh vegetables for the family.  This inspired Jeff to continue a similar lifestyle.  He started with raising pygmy goats then expanded to meat goats, dairy goats, small farm cattle, egg and meat chickens, hogs, as well as raising a huge garden. Every Saturday for four years, he traveled from Iowa to Missouri selling meats and vegetables. He has continually researched information ranging from sustainable agriculture to marketing value-added farm products. In 2008, Jeff and his family moved to Cass County, Missouri where he currently lives. He has served as a board member on the Iowa Meat Goat Association and was president of the Southern Iowa Ag Diversity Corporation which was an indoor farmer’s market. He joined LU Extension in 2009 and currently provides assistance to small farmers in Cass and Johnson County. He enjoys meeting farmers and helping them work through difficult farming and gardening challenges and gets the greatest satisfaction when collaboration with farmers evolves into successful projects.

Jim Pierce earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture studying fruits and vegetables from Northwest Missouri State University.  He has 20 years experience raising small fruits, melons, tree fruit, and a variety of vegetables on a small scale. Selling at local farmers markets came as a result of growing produce.  It was at the farmers market where he gained an understanding of how to market his products in an effective way.  He has used his experience and education in the greenhouse to grow herbs and vegetables for retail. Through research and innovative ideas, he discovers ways to add value to the products produced by farmers.  Jim is a Farm Outreach Worker for Clay and Platte Counties.

In his youth, Jim Pierce was inclined to find work on a Christmas tree farm, peach and apple orchard, a row crop farm, and a cow/calf operation. After a few years passed and some oats were sown, he quit an unrewarding manufacturing job and pursued a Bachelor's Degree in Horticulture from Northwest Missouri State University for several years.  The study of fruits and vegetables, as a ray of sunlight through a tall roiling grey bank of thunder clouds on a summer evening, shed light on a new path to wander down. Since that time, he has raised small fruits, melons, a wide variety of vegetables, greenhouse herbs, vegetables and ornamental crops, tree fruits, as well as raising broilers, pork and sheep on a small farm in Missouri.  Jim brings hands on experience and education as a Farm Outreach Worker to the small farmers of Clay and Platte Counties.


Miranda Duschack is based out of St. Louis where she serves as both the Innovative Small Farmers’ Outreach Program area coordinator and St. Louis County Farm Outreach Worker.  Miranda has a dual emphasis BA in Sustainable Agriculture and Sociology from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington (2003) and seven consecutive years of training in production agriculture on small farms, in vegetable gardens, and orchards.  Her past projects include working at a goat dairy crafting artisan cheese, slaughtering home grown turkeys for Thanksgiving sale, and maintaining an 80 acre CRP Iowa Tallgrass Prairie. Originally from the rural township of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin where her family has lived since the 1870s, Miranda was inspired to practice sustainable agriculture by encounters on her aunt and uncle’s dairy farm, in her parents’ large gardens and with the family’s “hobby” beekeeping business.  In April 2010 she moved to Old North St. Louis, where she was an active member of Carl Kabat Catholic Worker House and New Roots Urban Farm where she tended the honeybees and gardens for the CSA.

Janet Hurst is the FOW in Franklin and Warren Counties. Janet joined the ISFOP team in July 2009.   She is a certified cheesemaker through the University of Vermont’s Institute of Artisan Cheese and the author of “Homemade Cheese” a homestead guide to cheesemaking.  Janet also studied cheesemaking in Maine, Canada and Israel.  Her background includes extensive work with dairy and meat goats. Janet has been extensively published in such magazines as the Mother Earth News, Countryside, the Dairy Goat Journal, Small Farm Today and other national publications.  She enjoys gardening, preserving food for her family and working with dairy animals.  Janet and her husband Charles reside near New Haven.


David Price, a beef producer from Troy, Missouri, joined the ISFOP team in January of 2010.  He graduated from Francis Howell Sr. High School in 1994 and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Middle Childhood Education from Missouri Baptist University in 2004.  David and his wife, Lana, married in 1997 and currently have 3 children; Emma-Mae, Wyatt, and Elsie.  The Price’s reside on their southwestern Lincoln County cattle farm where they raise and direct-market natural beef.  David assists and encourages other regional producers in realizing their farming goals through the implementation of innovative production methods and through marketing their products directly to an ever-expanding local foods market.  David and Lana are members of the First Baptist Church in Troy.


Joyce Rainwater joined the ISFOP team in November 2010.  She was born in Washington, Missouri and grew up on a small diversified dairy farm just south of Beaufort, Missouri.  The farm was operated by her family including her parents, four brothers, two sisters and herself. Through her hard work she grew to have a very strong love of her family, the outdoors, and animals.  She graduated in 2006 from Union High School.  She then decided to combine her love of teaching and passion for agriculture by continuing her education and majoring in Agricultural Education. In 2010 she earned a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education with a minor in Agricultural Economics from the University of Missouri in Columbia. In 2009, she and her husband were married.  They are currently building their dream home in Robertsville, Missouri.  Her husband is a full-time firefighter in Pacific, Missouri, but they both still find time to help out on the family farm.  Joyce joined the ISFOP team to assist small farmers in finding the resources that are available to them.  She loved growing up and working on the family farm and wants others to be able to continue with that way of life.


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